School board rejects Chevron funding, fuels election controversy
Published Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:35AM EST
A controversial decision by the cash-strapped Vancouver School Board has become a hot civic election issue in that city.
The school board made headlines this past spring when it decided to turn down nearly $500,000 from Chevron, despite facing a $20-million funding shortfall next year.
The board declined the offer, citing its nine-year policy that prohibits it from entering into partnerships with corporations. It also said a deal with an oil company wouldn't fit with its goal of becoming the greenest school district.
Under the “Fuel Your School” program, Chevron would have advertised that, for every 30 litres of gas bought at local stations, $1 would be donated to the school board, up to $475,000.
Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus said the board didn't like that the donation would be linked with a campaign to sell more gasoline.
"This was not a cash donation…. This was a marketing partnership," she told CTV Vancouver.
In contrast to the Vancouver board, the school districts in Surrey, White Rock, Burnaby and Coquitlam have all accepted funding support from Chevron.
The Surrey School District's Doug Strachan says his district received $200,000 from the "Fuel Your School" project last year and the money came with no strings attached.
“There was none. Other than they wanted to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects,” he said. “From all accounts, it has been well received.”
Now, Vancouver's rejection of money from "Big Oil" has become a hot election issue.
Kirk LaPointe, who's running for Vancouver mayor on Nov. 15, under the Non-Partisan Association banner, says he would have accepted the deal from Chevron.
"It offered our schools nearly half a million dollars for equipment that they now don't have," he said Wednesday.
“Whether we like to admit it or not, our schools are underfunded, so we have to look for alternative sources of revenue.”
Gregor Robertson, who hopes to win re-election as mayor under the Vision Vancouver banner, backs the school board's decision. He points to promotional photos released by Chevron that show students wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the company’s logo on them as an example of corporate influence on children.
“There’s definitely a deeper corporate agenda," he said. "The connection with their tacit support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and more oil tankers in our harbour -- there might be a connection there.”
LaPointe pointed out that the VSB currently accepts donations from other corporations such as Telus, Best Buy and Future Shop. He doesn't believe that Chevron’s proposal would have violated their policy on corporate donations.
"They have lots of corporate funds in the classes right now,” he said.
“We can talk about the need for the province to fund our schools better, and I understand that. I would push for that, of course. But while we’re talking about this, the students aren’t getting the equipment they need and they’re not learning in the way they need to.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Mi-Jung Lee